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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 September, 2003, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Train smashes London-Paris record
Eurostar train
The Eurostar train recently broke the broke the UK rail speed record
A high speed Eurostar train has smashed the record journey time for London to Paris.

The train, packed with celebrities and invited guests, was given a rousing send-off from London's Waterloo station.

It reached Paris in two hours 19 minutes, comfortably beating the usual time of two hours 55 minutes.

The high speed trip was possible thanks to the opening of the first stage of the long-awaited Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL).

This special day marks the start of a new era for travel in Europe
Paul Charles,
The improved service opens for business on Sunday but fare-paying passengers will not reach Paris in quite such a short time.

The new 1.9 billion, 46-mile link through Kent will make a significant difference though, with a journey time of just two hours 35 minutes - some 20 minutes shorter than before.

The link, from Folkestone in Kent to a point near Gravesend in north Kent, will also reduce the London to Brussels Eurostar time by 20 minutes, to two hours 20 minutes.

Eurostar's communications director Paul Charles. said: "This special day marks the start of a new era for travel in Europe.

Second link

"Time is of the essence for every traveller so the shorter journey times on the new fast line will mean Eurostar is the only way to travel between London, Paris and Brussels," he added.

Passengers prepare to board Britain's first high speed train

The link was officially declared open last week by the Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The second, 3.2 billion section of the link, running from near Gravesend into London's St Pancras station, is due to be completed in time for Eurostar services to run on it by 2007.

Completion of the full link will bring the London-Paris time down to two hours 15 minutes and London-Brussels to two hours.

Lagging behind

Domestic services in Kent will also benefit from the link with local trains set to use part of it from 2007.

Britain has generally lagged well behind both France and Belgium in getting its track ready.

Only now have Eurostar trains in the UK been able to go at a top speed of 186mph - but this was possible in France as soon as the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994 as the French had their link reading a decade earlier.

The Belgians had their link in operation by 1997, when the UK link's exact route had yet to be agreed upon.

High-speed Channel link opens
16 Sep 03  |  England
Passengers may lose out on Link
10 Apr 03  |  England
Train smashes speed record
30 Jul 03  |  Kent

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